Everyone needs a little pick-me-up from time to time. Caffeine use has soared in the United States. Whether it is coffee, caffeinated soda, or energy drinks, people turn to caffeine in growing numbers to give them a boost. In fact, a 2005 issue of New Scientist reported that about 90 percent of North Americans say they use some form of caffeine every day. Even more surprising, a University of Nebraska Medical Center survey reported that 75 percent of the children they surveyed reported daily caffeine use (!). Are we raising kids to be caffeine addicts from the start?
Caffeine is physically and psychologically addictive. The Johns Hopkins Medical Center reports withdrawal symptoms that include headaches, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, depression and irritability, and difficulty concentrating, which can occur in people consuming as little as a single cup of coffee every day.
Along with withdrawal symptoms, caffeine causes other physical issues as well including dehydration, jitteriness, and stomach problems. Caffeinated beverages may also exacerbate certain health conditions including anemia, irritable bowel syndrome, kidney stones, osteoporosis, ulcers, and pre-menstrual syndrome among many others.
Caffeine can contribute to adrenal exhaustion, which can lead to undereye circles and puffiness. Caffeine must be processed through your liver, which adds a burden to the liver on top of all its detoxifying and fat-burning duties. It should never be consumed casually- it has a lot of unbalancing affects on the body.
It’s clear to me that America needs to cut back on caffeine, but I know how difficult it can be to do so. Along with physical withdrawal, people have come to rely on its energy- boosting benefits and many truly believe they can’t get through the day without some form of artificial energy, which is what caffeine is. It is basically a drug.
For those of you who feel that way, I’ve got great news! You can boost your energy through natural means that nurture and support your body.
1. Cut out the caffeine:
It may seem counter-intuitive, but the first step to increasing your natural energy levels is removing the artificial boost you get from caffeine. If you’re among the 90 percent of North Americans that drink caffeine daily, there’s a good chance you will experience some withdrawal symptoms when you do. The more caffeine you consume, the more severe those symptoms may be. Headaches can last up to 48 hours, and the other symptoms may take a week to subside. While that sounds unpleasant, if you take a long-term view of your health, then that uncomfortable week can serve as a means to an end. A week of discomfort can lead to a lifetime of better health, and that sounds totally worth it to me. If you’d like to minimize withdrawal symptoms, taper off slowly cutting back your caffeine intake by half and then half again over the course of several days. How you choose to do it is up to you. While some people like to rip the bandage off quickly by quitting cold turkey, others like to take their time. Whichever you choose, I promise it will be well worth the effort!
You’ll see in time that your coffee drinking was just a habit- and you are stronger than your habits.
2. Get more sleep
It’s true! You may be lacking in energy because you’re not sleeping enough. Although there is no magic number, most adults need around seven to nine hours of sleep per night and they’re not getting it. Okay, I admit: I don’t remember the last time I got nine hours of sleep during the week, but I try to shoot for 7 myself. The National Sleep Foundation reports about 63 percent of adults don’t get enough sleep, and the average adult gets less than seven hours of sleep per night. Lack of sleep is associated with reduced energy; poor cognitive function; increased risk of serious health complications like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, depression; and increased rate of aging. If you are among the sleep deprived, caffeine actually worsens this effect.
Ready to improve your sleep for more natural energy? Set a sleep schedule and stick to it. Consistency can reinforce your sleeping and waking schedule, so sleep the same on weekends you do on weeknights. Create a bedtime ritual for yourself.
I find it really helpful to get off my computer at least an hour or two before going to bed. Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep to the TV. You don’t want to absorb negative subconscious energies.
3. Start your day with a Glowing Green Smoothie
The GGS is a natural energy booster. It is packed with vitamins and minerals, and it doesn’t weigh down your digestive system by sapping your energy to digest heavy foods. The GGS is the best way I know to get your day off to the right energetic start!
I have many clients who have cut coffee out or WAY back just from consuming the GGS regularly in the mornings.
4. Eat high-energy foods
While many people turn to sugar for an energy kick, it can actually zap your energy. Instead eat foods that contain beneficial nutrients and complex carbohydrates, which burn slowly to provide great energy without weighing you down. Try super grains like quinoa and millet, have a few nuts, and eat plenty of colorful vegetables.
I know how hard it can be to motivate yourself to exercise, especially when you’re tired. Still, engaging in physical activity can boost energy levels more than stimulants like caffeine. Take a brisk, 30-minute walk early in the day to wake up your body and boost your energy all day long.
Sometimes I just take mini yoga breaks from my computer and being with my clients all day, and just do a few poses for 10 minutes at a time on my living room floor. It really helps! My favorite pose lately by the way is Virabhadrasana II, or Warrior 2. I love how strong and centered it makes me feel.
Stress is an energy drain. When you are chronically stressed, your body releases hormones and chemicals that affect nearly all of your systems. While initially stress may appear to give you a burst of energy via the fight or flight response, as it progresses, stress saps you of energy and produces a host of physical outcomes including reduced immunity, weight gain, poor blood sugar control, and digestive problems. All of these can further drain your energy, putting you in a downward spiral of stress and physical illness.
That’s why stress control is so important for energy. It’s a stressful world, but you can develop strategies that help you cope. Giving your body the nutritional support it needs is extremely important. So is taking time out for yourself for at least a little while every day no matter how busy you are. Other stress busters include yoga, deep breathing, listening to music, exercise, meditation, and visualization. Find a strategy that works for you and give yourself the gift of taking time daily to decompress.
A lot of people talk about such things wistfully but never stick to a program. If you have any interest at all in meditation but have no clue where to start, I highly recommend the book Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda, who is my guru and whose meditation techniques I practice. You can also check out some info here.
7. Try some coconut oil
I love coconut oil! Not only does it beautify you from the inside out, but it contains medium chain fatty acids that supply long-lasting, immediate energy. Coconut oil also supports thyroid function, which can provide a significant energy boost. When I cook with oils, coconut oil is the only one I use.
There’s no need to rely on caffeine to give you energy. By using the above methods, you’ll be able to supercharge your energy without a cup of coffee or energy drink, and your health will benefit in the process.